RIYADH – The failed assassination attempt on Prince Muhammad Bin Naif, Assistant Minister of Interior for Security Affairs, Thursday night was planned by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula which operates from Yemen, sources confirmed.
The suicide bomber was recruited by Yemeni Nasser Al-Wohaishi, known also by the nom de guerre Abu Baseer, the sources said.
Al-Wohaishi is the head of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which had announced in an Internet posting last January the merger of the Saudi and Yemeni branches of Al-Qaeda.
The merger was seen by analysts as an attempt to consolidate after the Saudi branch of Al-Qaeda was practically wiped out following a vigorous counter-terrorism campaign led by Prince Muhammad.
According to Okaz sources, the bomber who detonated himself only a meter away from the Prince was part of a terrorist cell formed to target oil installations and public figures.
The sources said the bomber stayed in an apartment on Sari Street, northwest of Jeddah, Thursday.
He had slipped into the Kingdom from Mareb, east of Sana’a, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Abu-Bakr Al-Qirbi told The Associated Press.
“He was in Yemen,” said Al-Qirbi. “He claimed that he was going to hand himself over to Saudi authorities and make a statement to his followers to abandon Al-Qaeda principles.”
Okaz sources said the bomb was implanted in the attacker’s rectum, which could explain why he refused to drink coffee at the Prince’s Court.
The bomber had sent word he wanted to surrender personally to the Prince who had ordered that he not be searched to encourage others to come forward.
At the Prince’s home in Jeddah’s north Obhur beach area Thursday night around 11.30 P.M., the attacker was in line to enter a gathering of well-wishers for Ramadan when he blew himself up. The Prince was lightly injured in the attack. The bomber died.
Saudi authorities have so far not announced the identity of the attacker who along with his brother was on the Interior Ministry’s list of 85 most wanted militants.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has made several unsuccessful attempts to strike inside the Kingdom.
In April, Saudi authorities discovered a cave in the remote Saudi mountains near the Yemeni border that was a way station for the militants. Saudi police seized 11 suspected Saudi militants planning armed robberies, kidnappings and other attacks. Earlier this month Saudi authorities announced the arrest of 44 militants and the seizure of explosives, detonators and guns.
Thursday’s bombing was the first assassination attempt against a member of the royal family in decades and was also the first significant attack by militants in the Kingdom since 2006.
Saudi Arabia has waged a fierce crackdown on Al-Qaeda militants in the country. It has killed or captured most of their leaders after a string of attacks that started in 2003.
However, Thursday attack raises concerns that Yemen’s instability could allow Al-Qaeda to carry out cross-border attacks. The Yemeni army is on a near three-week-long offensive on strongholds of Zaidi rebels, also known as Huthis, in lawless swathes around Saada city in the Mareb region. The security forces are stretched by the tribal revolt in the north and separatist unrest in the south. – Okaz/ SG/ Agencies